A new study says that 80% of US electricity demand can be met with renewable energy by 2050 said Daily Tech. The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published the finding in the Renewable Electricity Futures study. NREL used technologies present and available today to calculate the results. Wind, photovoltaic solar, and biomass will have the largest impact while use of hydropower, which is the largest renewable source today, will decline. The study says 439 GW of wind capacity will be required in 2050 for the U.S. to be adequately supplied by renewables. Currently, there are only 50 GW installed. This means that the U.S. would have to build over 10 GW each year for 40 years. That equals 2,500 to 3,000 wind turbines per year. While 80% might be a lofty goal, the study is confident that renewables could easily supply 50%  of the country’s electricity in 205o.. In a related post, energybiz asked: Is 80 Percent Renewables by 2050 Wishful Thinking? You can access the NREL’s Renewable Electricity Futures Study here (with summary).

Forbes discussed the brewing debate in the environmental movement over the future path for renewable energy. The options are a decentralized or centralized power grid, the latter being what we have today. “The emerging battle lines pit believers in the environmental and economic benefits of decentralized clean energy against investors in utility-scale, high-impact power plants sited in remote regions and linked to demand centers by an increasingly expensive and unreliable electric power grid. In other words, the clean energy coalition is splintering between those who support the status quo and others like myself who believe the profligate economic and environmental wastefulness of the status quo is the challenge clean technology is supposed to solve – not support…On one side, utility-scale solar, wind and bi-power developers are scrambling to cash in by reinforcing a status quo that disenfranchises consumers. On the other side, a small but growing group of environmentalists, entrepreneurs and smart growth supporters believe the best way to save the planet is by empowering consumers to invest in high efficiency, low emissions clean heat and power technologies located close to the point of consumption.” The author is particularly chagrined with the “unrealistic assumptions” in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Renewable Electricity Futures Study which favors the centralized status quo. “The centralized energy vision proposed by NREL would ensure customers continue to pay vastly inflated prices for an increasingly unreliable supply of electric power. That is not what I would call the promise of clean energy.”

The Breakthrough Institute cautioned that international markets are bracing for a clean tech bust. As countries around the world face budget pressures from the slowdown of their economies and the chances for another recession (at least in some European nations), governments are reevaluating their subsidies (eg. feed-in-tariffs) for wind and solar projects. “Already we’re seeing signs of a slowdown following years of rapid expansion in clean tech sectors. After setting records in 2011, the world saw the lowest private investment in the first quarter of 2012 since the depths of the recession in 2009. Growth of wind power in particular has slowed in reaction to troubles in Europe and other developed countries, according the Worldwatch Institute.” The post warns that without some serious reform to the funding of these industries, “the road ahead for clean tech will be a challenge” as the intermittent technologies are putting pressure on inadequate electric grids and transmission infrastructures. Absent such reforms, unsubsidized renewable energies will be unable to compete with much cheaper coal and natural gas in the production of electricity. See also BOULDER WEEKLY Is the Clock Ticking Towards U.S. Clean Tech Crash?

Deutsche Welle told us a lack of storage options challenges the renewable energy sector. Intermittent electric power from wind and solar requires the ability to store their energy to ensure a steady output if these technologies are to provide us with a 24/7 energy source to meet human demands. This is becoming more and more a concern as nations plan for obtaining the majority of their energy from renewable sources by 2050. Germany, for example, has set a target of obtaining 80% of its electric energy from renewables by that date. These targets can only be achieved if new storage systems are created to ensure energy reliability. The post looks at new short-term and long-term storage options under consideration such as hydro and chemical storage. The German Environment Ministry expects the demand for storage units in that country to expand quickly sometime between 2020 and 2030.

Gregor.us showed us that global solar power has gone parabolic. With rapidly falling solar PV panels and nuclear’s retreat as a result of Fukushima, the demand for solar is increasing at a more rapid pace revealing an increasingly upward moving supply curve – the parabola.  Here is a graph from the site showing this trend.

 

 

The Daily Times reported that Pakistan’s Punjab plans to use solar and biomass to generate electricity. To address the continuous blackouts which are causing serious economic disruption to the agricultural and industrial sectors, the Punjab government has decided to create a comprehensive energy roadmap for meeting domestic and agricultural requirements through solar energy and biomass in its cities and villages. The encouragement of private sector solar and biomass projects are to from part of the next budget.

Power Engineering had a post on Pakistan’s Power Politics. “There is hardly any government meeting in Islamabad these days in which the debilitating energy crisis in which the country is engulfed is not discussed. Almost invariably, however, the problem is treated as one of governance – the government failing to meet its obligations to investors who are left with no choice but to stop producing electricity. This article shows how the actual problem lies in the privatisation policy under which the energy sector now operates.”

From Boston.com we learned that a youth hockey league in Cape Cod, Massachusetts has a solar powered ice hockey rink. It has about 3,300 solar panels on its rooftops and carports. The rink also includes a system that recovers waste heat from the refrigeration system and uses it to melt snow and heat water for ice resurfacing.

Cogeneration & On-site Power Production told us about a dairy in northern California using solar power to create electricity and hot water.

 

 

 

 

 

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